Artist Billboard in Mississippi Attracts Ire of Governor—and the 9 Other Biggest News Stories This Week
Catch up on the latest art news with our rundown of the 10 stories you need to know this week.
01 A billboard erected in Mississippi by the artist-run Super PAC “For Freedoms” has been met with criticism by the state’s governor and confusion from residents.
The work superimposes Donald Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” over a Civil Rights-era photograph of peaceful protestors staring down armed police on the Edmund Pettus Bridge during demonstrations in 1965. Famously titled Two Minute Warning, the photo was taken moments before the police attacked in what would be known as “Bloody Sunday.” The billboard itself is located on Highway 80, near the small town of Pearl, Mississippi. While Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant told a local news station that “it’s disappointing that this group would use this image as an attempt to divide the country,” the reaction from locals has been a mixture of interest and confusion. Interpretations of the billboard have ranged—some see it as racist, while others view it as a statement against police brutality. For Freedoms co-founder Eric Gottesman said this conversation is precisely the intention of the work. “We hope all who see our billboards think about them, talk about them, protest them, and let us and each other know their feelings,” he said. The discussion around the billboard may prove to be short-lived, however, with reports indicating the work has been covered up at the behest of Pearl’s mayor.
02 A new study has found that women working across arts professions make almost $20,000 less per year than men, before controlling for other factors.
The statistic comes courtesy of research published in the December issue of Social Currents, which examined the salaries of 33,000 individuals working in the arts—spanning from corporate roles to visual artists, writers, and dancers. While men in the arts earn a mean income of $63,061, women earn $43,177. The gap lessened to $13,406.77 when controlling for additional factors that could impact pay other than gender. These findings are comparable to the gender pay gap endemic across the United States, where women make only 79 cents for every dollar earned by men. The study did find that working in the arts offers some benefits to women not found in other fields, specifically for mothers. Research shows that mothers typically make less money than women without children, a phenomenon known as the “motherhood penalty.” But when focusing on the arts, this study found no such career disadvantage. By way of explanation, the authors point to the flexibility of artistic careers, which are characterized by “project-based labor markets and periods of self-employment.”
03 Sotheby’s has asked a federal judge to preemptively clear the auction house of any liability in the disputed sale of a $127.5 million Leonardo da Vinci painting.
The artwork is part of a long-running legal battle between Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev and Swiss freeport magnate Yves Bouvier. A group of art dealers sold the painting, Christ as Salvator Mundi (ca. 1500), to a Bouvier-controlled company for $80 million in 2013; Bouvier then turned around and sold the painting to Rybolovlev for $127.5 million. According to a motion filed by Sotheby’s in court on Monday, the group of art dealers is threatening to sue the auction house for the difference in price, a sum of almost $50 million. In their filing, Sotheby’s requested that the court preemptively clear it of any wrongdoing. According to the auction house, while it did facilitate the sale between the dealers and Bouvier, it played no part in Bouvier’s private sale of the work to Rybolovlev and made no money on the transaction. The da Vinci painting is one of approximately 38 pieces that Rybolovlev claims Bouvier sold him after fraudulently increasing the price. The pair are pitted against each other in a sprawling series of international civil and criminal suits centered on alleged fraud.
04 The Armory Show announced the roster of 207 exhibiting galleries for its 2017 edition, with the first iteration of the fair under the direction of Benjamin Genocchio seeing 71 new participants and a significantly overhauled floorplan.
As Artsy reported in April, the new director quickly decided to scrap the 22-year-old fair’s tradition of separating modern and contemporary art onto Pier 92 and Pier 94, respectively. In 2017, the fair’s main section—simply called Galleries—will span both piers on Manhattan’s West Side. “The Armory Show team has spent the last year listening to our gallery clients and visitors, and in response, we have made many radical changes and improvements to the show,” said Genocchio. A number of heavy-hitting international dealers join the Galleries sector this year, among them Jeffrey Deitch, Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Galerie Krinzinger, Dominique Lévy, kamel mennour, Pace Gallery, and White Cube. At the outset of his tenure as director, Genocchio made it clear that key to his strategy would be to improve the infrastructure of The Armory Show’s piers themselves and make the fair-going experience a more pleasant one. The VIP lounge has been significantly expanded in terms of its footprint. It has also been placed at the rear of Pier 92 rather than the front of Pier 94, a clear win for foot traffic to galleries placed further back on that pier. Genocchio adds that “more spacious aisles and larger booths will make for a better, more enjoyable show.”
05 Jeff Koons is donating a monumental sculpture to the city of Paris, in tribute to the victims of the city’s 2015 terrorist attacks.
Koons’s sculpture is meant to honor the victims of last year’s terrorist attacks in Paris, while also signifying the solidarity between the U.S. and France. “My hope is this amazing sculpture will bring visitors to Paris,” said Jane D. Hartley, the U.S. ambassador to France on Monday, nodding to the city’s severely weakened tourism sector in the wake of the attacks. The 34-foot-tall, bronze, stainless steel, and aluminium sculpture, Bouquet of Tulips, takes the form of a white person’s hand gripping a bouquet of balloon tulips. Its gesture was visually and symbolically inspired by the torch-bearing hand of the Statue of Liberty, the massive memorial to American independence that France gifted the U.S. in 1886. Koons’s work—which is being fabricated in Germany and will be one of the artist’s largest sculptures to date—is to be located in a plaza outside the Palais de Tokyo and the Musée d’art modern. “I hope that the ‘Bouquet of Tulips’ can communicate a sense of future, of optimism, the joy of offering, to find something greater outside the self,” Koons told the New York Times on Monday, noting that the balloons were chosen for their “buoyancy.”
06 The German government has stepped in to fund the Berlin research unit focused on the Nazis’ treatment of “degenerate art.”
(via The Art Newspaper)
The decision by the government comes after the Ferdinand Möller Foundation terminated its funding for this research in 2015. Based out of Berlin’s Free University (Freie Universität), the unit was established by the Möller Foundation in 2003 and has since investigated the Nazis’ campaign against “degenerate art”—modern art by the likes of Picasso, Klee, and Kandinsky, among others, they deemed a threat to society and associated with mental illness and corruption. The unit has also investigated the works Nazis looted from Berlin collections and museums, maintaining a database of these stolen pieces. In 1937, over 20,000 works were looted from German museums and sold off by dealers. Among those dealers was Hildebrand Gurlitt, whose surname has been in headlines since 2013 when a trove of Nazi-looted paintings were uncovered in the apartment of his son Cornelius. “The Gurlitt case showed us how important research into this bitter chapter of Nazi art policy remains,” said Monika Grütters, Germany’s minister of culture. The German government has promised to continue funding through 2018, stipulating that regional Berlin authorities will also chip in.
07 Artnet has acquired Tutela, a boutique analytics firm, with the terms of the acquisition not revealed.
(via The Art Newspaper)
Founded in 2011, Tutela Capital SA provides numerous services based its proprietary algorithms, including high-frequency price indices and analytically driven art market analysis. The acquisition will see Tutela founder Fabien Bocart join Artnet’s team. Tutela will likely be further augmented by leveraging Artnet’s auction price database as it joins the company’s portfolio, which includes a news site and online auction platform. (Artent previously offered an analytics product before rolling back the program in 2014.) An indication of the growing financialization of the art market, Tutela also offers what is known as a “Fair Value Measurement” for artworks—a continuous notional value of the work rather than the art world’s traditional reference point, the work’s most recent auction price. This eliminates a regulatory hurdle for institutional investors interested in including art as they diversify their portfolios of alternative asset classes. The acquisition of Tutela comes shortly after Sotheby’s announced its purchase of the Mei Moses Art Indices, which tracks the performance of artworks via repeat sales at auction and has been used to track art’s performance relative to traditional asset classes. Both acquisitions point to increasing demand, particularly among new collectors, for data to back up art pricing and to project future returns.
08 Next month, the Prada Foundation will open a new contemporary photography gallery in a historic Milan shopping arcade.
(via The Art Newspaper)
The gallery, titled Osservatorio, will be located on the fifth and sixth floors of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, the shopping center where the fashion brand opened its first shop in 1913. The inaugural show, “Give Me Yesterday,” will open on December 21st and will feature work by 14 artists, both Italian and international—with Ryan McGinley, Melanie Bonajo, and Joanna Piotrowska among them. According to the organizers, each of the artists employs the “photographic diary” as “an instrument to focus on their own daily lives and intimate, personal rituals.” Although the gallery’s subsequent program is yet to be announced, a spokesman from the foundation noted that the works shown would not be pulled from the Prada Collection. This initiative continues the Prada Foundation’s more than 20 year history of setting up exhibitions across the globe, and a more recent venture to establish permanent spaces. The new gallery follows last year’s opening of a contemporary arts complex at the site of a former distillery, south of Milan, by patron and collector Miuccia Prada and her husband Patrizio Bertelli.
09 Japan is funding an $11.4 million mosaic conservation project in Palestine’s West Bank.
(via The Art Newspaper)
In 2010, Japan began an initiative to help foster tourism and sustainable economic growth in Palestine and the Jordan Valley. They have since offered training courses on tourism and cultural heritage, and on October 20th of this year ceremoniously commenced new conservation efforts to preserve one of the largest ancient mosaics in the Middle East. Dating back almost 1,300 years, the 827-square-meter carpet mosaic floor located within the hammam at the Hisham Palace complex (near Jericho), was unveiled for public view last month for the first time since it was excavated in the 1930s. The project includes the conservation of the mosaic as well as construction of a protective structure to safeguard it against the elements. The Umayyad-era Hisham Palace complex, built around 734 A.D. and renowned for its hammam and accomplished mosaic works, is a tourist attraction and receives some 200,000 visitors per year. Construction on the hammam mosaic is slated to finish in 2018.
10 French president François Hollande’s inauguration of the Louvre Abu Dhabi has been canceled amid further delays for the project.
(via The Art Newspaper)
The ambitious Middle Eastern branch of France’s most iconic art institution has once again been beset by technical delays and political sensitivities. A planned symbolic inauguration of the new venue by President Hollande, when he’ll be in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for a visit next week, will no longer take place. The setback comes as an international conference on the preservation of cultural heritage during times of conflict, proposed by Hollande and organized by France and the UAE, is about to open in Abu Dhabi. Hollande had hoped to inaugurate the museum before France’s presidential election in May. A spokesperson for the museum corroborated the news, but no explanation has been given, nor a new opening date announced. It’s thought the museum could now be delayed until December 2017, five years after it was originally intended to open. The project has been embroiled in controversy and mismanagement claims since it first launched in 2007.
Cover image: Photo by @forfreedoms, via Instagram.